Good Deal or Not? Converted Rowhome – Condo Edition


This condo is located at 1458 Fairmont Street, NW:

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The flier says:

“BACK ON THE MARKET! Contract fell thru. Entertain in style on the huge 8X16 deck of this bright and super clean condo in semi-detached boutique building. Super location on a quiet, tree-lined street just 2 blocks to heart of Col, Heights/Metro and 4 blocks to U Street Corridor/Metro. Low condo fees, fresh paint and hardwood floors and updated bathroom. Closing cost help available.”

More info and photos found here.

This condo has an interesting layout, not sure if you can tell from the photos. I kinda liked it though. Originally on the market for $419,900 the current price has dropped to $399,000. Sound reasonable? What do you think of the condo itself?

18 Comment

  • It’s a very good deal at that price. A good friend of mine has a condo in that building (I think there are only 3 units). Until recently there were no 2BRs for prices that low in that area, so the price is right. It’s a fairly large 2BR and great to have some outside space and live in a small building.

  • Isn’t what is so special about Columbia Heights/Petworth that you can still get a great row house (a complete one, not one cut up into condos) for a reasonable price. There are whole houses in beautiful shape not far from there that are listed at the same price.

    I suppose if one sees something inherently nice in owning a condo, then go for it. But a bad deal for me (and I don’t think the place looks all that fabulous.)

    ALSO — crime is particularly bad in that area. In the last 2 weeks, there have been two assaults a block from that address (one on the 1400 block of fairmount.) I’d much rather be in petworth.

  • Not a fan of these types of condos. It seems somewhat inline though a little overpriced but I am no expert. Saying that at least they didn’t go for the luxury look (and the price to go with it) therefore making it completely unaffordable.

  • I actually live in the 2nd floor unit of this place. It gets great sun all day long (it’s a corner unit that sits kitty corner from Girard St. Park), and the back deck is substantial. I haven’t been in the lower unit, but from looking in the window, it looks like they’ve done a really nice job with it.

    Re: crime – it’s actually not too bad on my block. Most crime around the area is centered on Girard St. And the two projects (pardon the expression – affordable housing?) on the block have been built within the last 10 years and attract many families, which is a good barrier to violet crime and drug dealing on this particular block.

  • No deal for me. What if one of the condo owners falls on hard times and can’t pay the condo fee? That leaves only two paying condo fees. There are just too many what ifs and not enough diversification of the risk for me. In buildings like these, you are essentially buying a building with two strangers. In that sense, you inherit the risk of the other two owners.
    I know it sounds negative. But I have seen situations like this turn ugly. I’d rather buy a house or a condo in an larger established building.

  • Not worth it. They just put in 4 floors of big 1br and efficiency condos on my block and they cost at least $150,000 or so less. Sure its one or two less rooms but its just as big, its not funky shaped, and its on a quite neighborhood block that is only 5 blocks from the CH metro and 3 from the Georgia Petworth metro. Did I mention everything is brand spanking new?

  • “boutique building”


  • i looked at it before the deal fell through, about 6 months ago or so. the living space outside of br’s is pretty small.

  • I live on the top floor of this building. I don’t know whether this is a good deal or not — the market’s in so much flux right now I can’t tell what a fair price is anymore!!!

    However, I will say that the building does get great light, has reasonable condo fees, a new roof and a healthy reserve balance. So far the folks living here (there are 4 units, one on each floor) have been easygoing and low-key. We also have the unit managed professionally, which helps.

    As for crime–I’ve def. seen a lot of police activity around here but have never experienced any trouble personally (other than a bicycle theft). There are almost always folks hanging out on the street and I recognize most of them (so I feel safe walking home at night) plus there’s a cop located in the lobby of the building at 14th and Fairmont from 5 PM ’til morning.

    What attracted me to this place was the light and the location–you’re about a half-mile from both U Street and Adams Morgan and a quarter mile from the Columbia Heights Metro. Plus only 2 blocks from Malcolm X Park. And for me, I didn’t want the upkeep of a row house, and I’d rather share the cost of a roof, exterior paint, and repointing with 3 other people.

  • The condo fee of $257.40 also seems pretty high to me. No door man, no elevator, no pool, not much land…to the person who posted who lives in that building what exactly are you getting for that $257.40 per month?

    I realize compared to other condo fees these are low, but again, you really aren’t getting much either in a three (maybe 4) unit building…

  • I live on that block, haven’t seen the inside of that building but it seems overpriced to me. I’d worry about the other unit owners not paying their dues like other posters have said. Though one of the townhouses about 30 ft away on university place just went on the market for 899K! I mean, it’s 4b 3ba, but i could not see paying close to $1m for a house on that street.

  • @Adams Morgan, on condo fees:

    Well, I’m no expert on this stuff, but I’m pretty sure anything less than $300 is cheap. If I remember correctly, this was one of the cheaper fees I came across when condo shopping a while back, and a quick google search reveals that average fees in Alexandria are $300 for garden apts. and $500 for buildings with amenities. Not sure about DC, but I’m sure it’s comparable or higher. If someone else knows more about this, they’re welcome to chime in.

    As for what you get: you have to pay a management company, plus there’s garbage collection, water bills, and upkeep on the property (we repainted the hallway this year and I’d imagine we’ll need to repaint/repoint the exterior soon). Since there’s only 4 units I’d imagine we could vote to lower the fees if we wanted, but instead we’re investing our extra reserve in CDs right now to cover any unanticipated expenses that may crop up.

  • As someone who once owned half of a two condo row house, Nate’s comment resonates with me. If the other owners are cool, this kind of arrangement can be a great deal. But if you get a bad apple it can make life miserable, and there if really very little recourse.

  • I bought a 2 bed 2 bath at the same square footage last spring just around the corner from this place for a little less, although the outdoor space on this unit is nicer than mine. I’d say it’s in the right price range.

  • What happens if when you sell there’s still a large amount in the condo fee reserve? Can you get your share back? Or is it just passed on to the new owners? Cause otherwise I would think that if there was reason to believe the fees were higher than necessary, owners would want to use that money to pay down their mortgage, which is probably at a higher interest rate than a CD…..

  • Condo fees of $257 for a 2BR condo are quite cheap. The 1BR unit I owned until 2005 had fees of $337; our 2BR units were $500 and up. The buildings with cheap fees tend to be new condos, where the builder recoups their costs on the sale of the units. And no, you don’t get your share of the reserves back when you sell. But if your building has lousy reserves and deferred maintenance, you’ll have a hard time selling your condo.

    I have to say now as a rowhouse owner, enjoy condo fees while they’re all you have to pay. My rowhouse was in relatively good shape when I bought it, but I’ve averaged about $1000 per month in upkeep over the 3 years I’ve owned it, some voluntary (I renovated my basement so I could rent it out) and some not – I had to replace my boiler unexpectedly and had no one to share the costs.

  • My friend is selling this place and I lived here with him for a few months. I’m not in the real estate business so I have no idea what similar places are selling for.

    I will say that the guy selling it has taken great care of it. He is the biggest neat-freak I know (Think legit O.C.D.). I enjoyed my time living there mostly because of the nice deck and proximity to U st, Ad mo and Columbia Heights.

    As someone mentioned above, most of the crime problems are up on Girard st and sometimes in the projects. He’s lived there for almost 6 years and hasn’t had any trouble.

  • Condo fees for a building like this go to paying to pick up the trash, paying the management company, filing the condo’s taxes, paying the shared electric, water, and other bills. And yes, $257 per month condo fee for a two bedroom in DC is a great deal.

    As an owner who bought when the unit was new, I’m very lucky that there have always been reasonable, low key folks living here. We communicate by email and basically just vote on whether/how to spend money.

    And no, for the person who asked, you don’t get to take condo fees with you when you sell. They are there, in a reserve, for emergencies such as needing to replace the roof–or whatever comes up. We could vote to reduce the amout of condo fees at any time. Under the guidance of our management company, we are being resposible owners by building up and maintaining a reserve appropriate for a condo of this size. The condo fees you leave behind are an investment in the property — just like upgrading your bathroom or kitchen would be in a condo or house. A healthy reserve should make a potential buyers feel safe because if the roof blows off or the steps cave in, they won’t get a special assessment because the cash fix things is already there.

    Our ability to make a decision on whether or not to raise or lower the condo fees is pretty different from living in a gigantic condo where dozens or hundreds of people might live, because you would never have consensus.

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